Monday, October 21, 2013

Cambodia : The Oudong Trail

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                          AhPek Biker - Riding Adventures                       
Cambodia : The Oudong Trail
Phnom Penh, Cambodia : 13th October 2013
Duo Ride - Riverside>Russian Boulevard>Road 598>Railway Tracks>Khan Pou Sechney>Angkor Park>Ou Kong Lake>Chrey Loas Commune>Oudong Temple>National Highway 5>Riverside
Cycling Distance Covered : approx. 65 km. (per MapMyRide tracking)
Time : 7:45 am - 12:35 pm (Cycling Time only)
Time Taken : 4 hrs. 50 mins. (including stops for rests, photo shoots, and enjoying the rustic country side & villages)

Route Recommendations :
1. For those who come from right-hand drive countries, bear in mind that in Cambodia vehicles are left-hand drive. So do take the extra care to ride on the correct side. When crossing roads, do bear this in mind, as vehicles will be coming in from the "wrong" direction.
2. Do take care when cycling along the muddy paths, don't speed as they can be rather slippery when wet.
3. What is seen as roads on maps at the outlying areas of Phnom Penh are in fact laterite tracks only.
5. Points of interests :
- The padi fields topped by swaying palms.
- Lake Oucham.
- Observe life and culture of rural Cambodia along the way.
- The Angkor Park (I did not go in, but it should be nice inside).
- The Oudong Temple complex.


PRELUDE

In a small wooden ferry while on the Mekong Islands Ride.
Whenever I am in Cambodia for some business, I try to take some time off to do a bit of cycling. Previously, I had rode to some of the Mekong Islands (...see Mekong Islands Blogs). It was a short fun ride that had whetted my appetite for more. More meaning longer rides, to places further away. With that in mind, I thought of cycling out of Phnom Penh to the old capital of Cambodia -  Oudong Temple. At this old capital of Cambodia, there are nice ancient temples to view. So with a great destination in mind, I am all geared to go.
This will be a long ride of about 65 km but having rode longer distances than this back home, I thought that this should be a cinch. But I was sorely wrong, it proved to be harder than it looked!


THE RIDE

Pedaling Phnom Penh - The Oudong Trail Ride Map (click for Map Link)
The ride route : Riverside>Russian Boulevard>Road 598>Railway Tracks>Khan Pou Sechney>Angkor Park>Ou Kong Lake>Chrey Loas Commune>Oudong Temple>National Highway 5>Riverside.
Starting off riding on proper roads from the Riverside of Phnom Penh, we will hit the old railway tracks and rode beside it. From then onwards it was an experience of Cambodia's countryside and its rural people.


My cycling partner for the trip is Ravinn, a local Cambodian girl. She is very familiar with the 65km. route there and will lead the ride. This is a first for me, a lass (and a sweet one at that) will be taking me on. Great!


Leaving the Riverside, we rode through down town Phnom Penh and then down the Russian Boulevard passing by the Prime Minister's Office. Fortunately, it was a Sunday and the traffic was light.


About five kilometres down we turned right into Street 598 and quite immediately turned left, and I found myself riding besides the old railway tracks of Cambodia.
This is where our adventure begins; what is shown as roads on Google Maps at the outlying areas of Phnom Penh are more often just dirt tracks! Some are barely wide to accommodate two-lane traffic whilst others are just enough for motor-cycles.
And here I was thinking that we will be having an easy 65 km. road ride when in fact we will be riding almost all the way on dirt tracks, swing left and right trying to avoid puddles of water. Will my old bones be up to handling this?


Well, no point complaining about it. Since we are on it already, I might as well take it on; ride on, enjoy the scenery and observe life here.
These villagers a sitting on the railway tracks chatting idly away after their morning marketing without fear of being run down by trains. Well, they have reasons not to be afraid as Cambodia's rail service have not been in operation for quite some time now.


One of many village centres that dots the route of the railway tracks.
Along the way we passed by many shanty houses, most of them not much more than lean-to's, and intermittently were the village centres. There's a whole living community along these railway tracks!


From the shanties smiling children, waved sporadically at us. They many not be rich in material things but they are certainly rich in a simplistic happy life.


At one of the railway tracks was this yellow locomotive that was pulling a track laying machine. They are probably repairing the rails and re-setting the uniformity of the track width and laying new concrete sleepers. Soon trains could be running here. The children were innocently watching this, unaware of how operational trains will affect their and their parents lives. I wonder how they will adapt? Will their simple innocence be lost?


Our ride along the railway tracks were to last for almost nine kilometres and after that we were cycling among padi fields. The stretches of green with palm trees swaying nonchalantly above them was a welcomed change from the sorry sights along the railway tracks.


Here, I was filled with a feeling of euphoria, which was oddly tinged with a little home-sickness for the similar sights of my native Sekinchan padi fields (... see Scenic Sekinchan Day 2 blog).


Further along, beyond the padi fields area, roads were being upgraded with gravel being laid on and soon they will be tarred. This happy couple will probably not be badly affected  by the new road, although they may not be able to trot along so easily when traffic increases.


Suddenly a herd of cows came rushing towards us. I was quite worried about being cow-dozed by them; but Ravinn seems unconcerned, just nonchalantly riding along; slowly ploughing a path through the cows. I followed safely close behind her, heh heh...


Hardly any cars were seen on these roads, instead along the way we saw many innovative means of transport - like this tractor cart. The tractor serves a dual purpose, for ploughing and after that it's connected to a cart for transportation. It will be interesting to see this sleek machines racing around a track. Perhaps I should suggest a race to them the next time I am there.


Most times the cow pulls the cart, but once in a while the cart carries the cow - like on this motorcycle-cart. The motorcyclist is doing some shopping while filling up his tank with bottles of petrol sold at one of many road side stalls - some similarity to our petrol stations-cum-convenient store, although at a very much smaller scale.


These guys are transporting chicken & ducks to the market. I really respect their ability to balance with such loads, especially along these tracks.


Taxi-trucks ferry people for a reasonable fare - so reasonable that it's standing room only.


We are now at the Phnom Bat Commune vicinity, cycling across a road running through Lake Oucham. The rainy season had filled up the lakes almost to the road levels and this is a boon for the locals as many can be seen fishing from the sides of this track.


The houses here are very similar to the ones back home; if not for their different roofs style, I would have thought myself cycling through the padi fields of Malaysia.


Most of the children would wave at us as we passed by, some rushing out to give us high fives. They are still happy and unexposed to the life as an adult.


Except for this gloomy looking boy sitting atop a golden Qilin guarding a temple entrance. Perhaps he has had a peep into the future, and have seen the burden of adulthood.


While in a nearby house a woman bows reverently at a visiting monk; praying for good fortune to be blessed upon her.


Posing here in front of the Angkor Park. It's a park with replicas of the buildings & structures of Angkor in Siem Reap.
Oudong Temple is just ten kilometres away, perhaps the owners are trying to catch some of those tourists from OudongI would have loved to go in a look around; but the dark skies were a deterrent  it's better we try to reach Oudong before it rains.


Reaching the foothills of Oudong I was surprised to find the place packed with cars and people. At the roadside red signs advertise eating places (not restaurants, you will see the difference later on). It's a Sunday and many tourists (mostly Cambodians) are visiting this tourist spot.
The entrance to Oudong is on the left, we will be eating at the right.


We ate ala Khmer style, sitting crossed legged on mats laid out on wooden platforms in these communal attap huts. The food stall kitchens are to one side of these many huts. I say communal as there are many stalls surrounding these huts, they seem to share these huts. (For more of what we ate, see Lunch @ Oudong blog).


I must have been pretty hungry after the ride as I wolfed down three plates of rice that went well with the stir-fried spicy chicken. After that, a quick rest Cambodian style (swinging from the hammock) before climbing up to the Oudong Temple.


Climbing up was not easy, it's up 509 of these steps up to the temples that straddle the top ridge of Mount Oudong - thank goodness it was shady for most of the way. Still I had to stop frequently to catch a breather.


The first stupa we reached was the White Stupa. It is a new one but have followed the architectural form of the old and original ones. It is also the largest, occupying two platforms.


From the lower platform there is a grand view of the surrounding country side. Lake Oucham that we passed through earlier stretches from the centre towards the right. The padi fields can be seen peeping out from the far right. They all seem so far away, almost at the horizon; did we ride that far?


The second stupa stands at the tallest part of Oudong hill. It's unique architectural style of layered squares leading up to a sharp point makes it an easily recognisable structure even from afar.

The stupa that is most intriguing, it's a four-faced stupa. I am not sure whether it's the face of Buddha or the face of one of the ancient kings of the Khmer empire. This stupa is of yellowish brown colour. In fact all four stupas are of slightly different design and colour.


Besides the four stupas, there are some small mausoleums and shrines. At the far end of the hill ridge is a large Buddhist Temple holding a giant sitting Buddha (... see more at Oudong Temple blog).


After spending about an hour at the temple, we came down and rode six kilometres to the National Highway No. 5. From there we hailed a taxi, sharing it with four other passengers. It was a tight (four behind & two at the front passenger seat) forty-plus kilometres ride back to Phnom Penh. Being tired, we just squeezed in and was soon dozing off.

TILL THE NEXT RIGHT THEN,
ADIEU!


Related Blogs :

Cambodia : Phnom Penh Museums : December 2012
A surprisingly educational visit to the National Museum of Cambodia.


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